Plaintiff had been working for a local grocer for two years when, in the fifth month of her first pregnancy, she started to suffer sharp pains in her abdomen. As it turned out, the baby had dropped into her cervix. She was at risk of preterm labor, which could have serious and devastating consequences for her unborn child. Her doctor gave her a note to give to her employer, with instructions that she avoid heavy lifting. For two weeks, her employer acquiesced, allowing her to avoid carrying boxes of chicken or other supplies in the deli area. But then suddenly, after a follow-up doctor’s visit, her manager informed her that allowing such lifting restrictions was against the store policy. The 24-year-old was sent home, reeling, fearful for how she would pay her bills with a baby on the way.
She has now filed a class action pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, seeking a change in the store’s policy, which she says violates the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Both state and federal laws do protect pregnant workers, though sometimes the interpretation gets muddled. The Tennessee Human Rights Act & Disabilities Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of familial status, but in the scope of employment, most pregnancy discrimination claims are filed under gender discrimination provisions. At the federal level, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. This amendment prohibits discrimination on the basis of one’s sex – which can include pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions. Women who are affected by pregnancy, birth and related medical conditions are to be treated the same for all employment-related purposes – including those who may not be so affected but similar in their inability to work. Continue reading